How to Pivot Your Music Career as the Industry Shifts

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Photo credit: Possessed Photography

A music career is like running a business. And every business owner will tell you, you have to adapt to the changes in your industry and in the world at large. So as an indie artist doing everything yourself, you need to know how to pivot your music career when the industry pivots.

How the Music World Has Changed

The music industry has undergone drastic transformations over the past 20 years. With the internet came a whole new set of opportunities and problems for musicians.

Looking back, music piracy seems inevitable. From there, we got music streaming, which now dominates the music world. This led to the downfall of the sale of physical CDs and the birth of music distributors, CD Baby being the first one accessible for indie musicians.

The internet and other technological advances put more power in the indie artist’s hands. Musicians were able to put their songs in the same places as the big label artists, which was near impossible before the internet. Now, no-name artists can become national or worldwide sensations thanks to social media.

To make a living 20 years ago, you pretty much had to get signed, record an album, then tour, tour, tour and sell merch. Thanks to the internet, you have so many other options for income sources.

However, copyright laws in the United States have not kept up with the advancement of technology. And with AI music here, we need to start tackling copyright and privacy concerns.

How To Adapt To the Changing Music Industry

Now let’s talk about some practical ways to adapt to whatever changes will come in the music industry. We don’t know what the music industry will look like in 5, 10, 20 years. So it’s best to build practices that will prepare us no matter what.

Stay Informed and Educated

Keep yourself updated on industry trends, technology advancements, and changes in listener behavior. Read reliable news sources (like this one), listen to podcasts, and stay in conversation with the musicians in your life.

Learn about music promotion, and the business side of the industry. Understand the basics of copyright, licensing, and contracts to protect your work and make informed decisions (or work with a music lawyer).

Keep Your Digital Presence

Maintain a strong online presence through social media, streaming platforms, and your own website. Engage with your audience, share updates regularly, and continue to build your email and texting lists so you can stay in touch with people regardless of changes with platforms.

Stay On Streaming Platforms

Embrace streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and others. Boycotting them only makes it harder to get discovered by fans. So create playlists, encourage fans to follow you, and make sure you have access to the backend artist view of these platforms so you can understand your listenership better.

Diversify Your Income Streams

Don’t rely solely on one income source. Stay open to multiple revenue streams. Some of the most common ones right now are streaming, merch, live performance, sync licensing, and producing other artists. But there are so many others, and the opportunities will change over time. So always be looking for how you can use your skills and songs to bring in money.

Focus On Building a Fanbase

Focus on building a loyal fanbase rather than trying to get as many followers as possible. Yes, you always want more people to find you, but focus on connecting with your fans. Engage with your audience, respond to comments, and create a sense of community. Word-of-mouth is powerful, and a dedicated fanbase can help you navigate changes in the industry.

Collaborate and Network

Collaborate with other musicians, producers, and industry professionals. Cross promotion is a powerful tool.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

While maintaining your artistic integrity, be open to experimenting with your sound. Trends in music can change, and adapting your style (without selling out) can help you reach a broader audience.

Embrace Technology

Explore new tech and tools that can enhance your music creation and promotion process. New things can be scary, but that’s mainly because we don’t understand them at first. Do your best to understand technology so you can decide if you want to use it.

Attend Industry Events

Attend conferences, workshops, and industry events to stay connected, learn from others, and discover new opportunities. Getting to know people at these events can also be invaluable for your career.